It goes without saying that to enjoy music reviewing, you have to also enjoy the discovery and research of an album just as much as writing about it. And that doesn’t mean just the good records from your favorite bands. It means every album you get your hands on. But, even if I could review just the good records and albums from my favorite groups, I’m not sure I would want to. I have to say, while I love reviewing records from my go-to groups, there’s something fun and stress-free about grabbing a record from an unknown band. It’s like watching the World Series between two teams you don’t care about. You’re going to make four-to-seven evenings out of it and you don’t have to worry about the tension or superstition that goes with it. And this brings us to Norway’s Ghost Avenue and their sophomore release, Impact.
I chose Impact because it has two things going for it—one good and one I hoped to make fun of endlessly. What it has going for it is a sound that blends ’80s Dio with Iron Maiden and Metal Church. I don’t care who you are, this shouldn’t be an issue for anyone. What its got going against it is the band name. But, as it turns out, this five-piece was once the proud owner of a simple, more obvious name. A stronger name; one stripped from them for obvious reasons. So, I will give these guys a break on their silly name. After forming in 2002, these guys began kicking up dust with 2010’s debut The Engraving (under their Ghost moniker) before changing their name and forging ahead in a solid-steel DeLorean, packed from bumper to bumper with rock ‘n’ roll fuel.
One aspect of Ghost Avenue‘s future that needed changing was the ’80s cock-rock found on The Engraving. This doesn’t mean their self-titled Ghost Avenue debut isn’t filled with cheesy rock ‘n’ roll and the lyrical ramblings of a functional alcoholic, but, goddammit, that’s growth. The songwriting on Ghost Avenue is more to the liking of the ’80s metal greats and the instrumental and vocal performances are significantly better. The band may have continued to rehash good ole days even after the name change, but it’s just too much fun to hate. Which, I guess, makes me an “old” motherfucker who likes it when “old” motherfuckers play “old,” motherfucking music. Judge me all you want. I ain’t ashamed and I don’t give a shit what you think.
And, neither do Ghost Avenue—seeing that they are starting to make a decent career out of it. This time around, the band pushed hard on their own envelope; roaring across the Earth’s atmospheric fringes with even better songwriting, even better performances, and some seriousness to their material. “Impact” is the first to careen along the ether, dropping a heaviness, vocal addictiveness, and a war-themed attitude unseen by Ghost Avenue (or Ghost before it). Though Kim Sandvik’s hair-metal vox remain, the title track has the testicular fortitude to shush naysayers. But “Impact” doesn’t have shit on bruisers like “Time Traveller” and “The Edge of Darkness.” Both are head-bang happy and, while the latter makes me think of Mel Gibson, it has the hookiest chorus on the disc.
“The Edge of Darkness” may be my favorite of the record, but the band has a secret weapon that makes a song like “Time Traveller” better than it should be. That weapon is Magnus Liseter’s bass. I wouldn’t compare it to heavy-metal god Steve Harris, but the bass has real presence here. One that keeps tracks like “Escape,” “Affection,” and “Collateral Damage” from falling to the wayside. Sandvik’s vocals also work their ass off to bring life to many of these old-school tracks. His infectious vocal arrangements give life to “Escape” and his Maiden/Church and Maiden/Dio choruses on “The Prison” and “Dancing with the Devil” allow them to surpass mediocrity.
Even so, songs like “Affection,” the aforementioned “Dancing with the Devil,” and closer “The Ace” don’t quite have the punch to keep me coming back. And, while I rather enjoy the ballady “Construction,” the whole thing is an energy zap of cheesiness. Still, this is Ghost Avenue‘s best release to date. Its seamless flow from one track to another works to its favor and its stronger songwriting results in a more balanced end-product. As you can tell, there ain’t much new headed down the mystical Ghost Avenue. But, that’s OK. All I wanted was something simple, with hooks like those of an deep-sea fisherman. And that’s what I got.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Pitch Black Records
Websites: pitchblackrecords.bandcamp.com| ghostavenue.com | facebook.com/ghostavenue
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2017